He was at Anfield on Sunday, smiling and applauding supporters on his team’s traditional end-of-season lap of honour.
Rhian Brewster, though, may not be at Liverpool for very much longer.
The young striker faces an uncertain summer, while his club faces the prospect of losing one of its brightest, most sought-after talents. It’s a strange situation, one which the Reds, wisely, are doing everything they can to resolve.
Brewster has offers from at least two clubs in Germany – Borussia Monchengladbach and RB Leipzig – to leave Anfield, and his camp believe that a move to the Bundesliga may be beneficial for the teenager’s long-term development.
He is yet to sign a professional contract at Liverpool, despite turning 18 last month, though the Reds did trigger the third year of his scholarship, meaning he is unable to speak with any other club, in the UK or beyond, at present.
Liverpool, though, believe they have compelling evidence of meetings between Brewster and both Gladbach and Leipzig, and will consider reporting both clubs for making illegal approaches – if the player eventually decides to leave. The Reds, of course, were on the receiving end of a 'tapping up' complaint regarding their pursuit of Virgil van Dijk last summer, and while there is no ill-feeling towards Brewster, the club would feel it has a duty to make a complaint of their own if they feel the rules have been broken.
Gladbach appear favourites to sign Brewster this summer, though Liverpool remain in dialogue with his representatives and are willing to offer what they believe a reasonable deal, both financially and in terms of career prospects. The plan is to make the U17 World Cup winner a part of Jurgen Klopp’s first-team squad, starting with the tour of the USA in July, on which a number of younger players will feature.
Brewster has already been on the bench for Liverpool’s senior side back in April 2017, but suffered a serious ankle injury in an U23s fixture back in January. He has undergone two operations since, but Liverpool ensured his rehabilitation was completed with the first-team’s medical staff and facilities at Melwood, rather than at the club’s Academy in Kirkby.
Klopp is a big fan of the quick, instinctive goalscorer and believes he has a future at Anfield, and last week offered fulsome praise of his young prodigy in a speech to honour Mohamed Salah at the Football Writers’ Association awards dinner in London.
In it, the Reds boss praised Brewster for speaking up about the racist abuse he has suffered on numerous occasions playing for both Liverpool and England, and said the teenager had “established himself as one of the most exciting prospects in English football”.
Liverpool still hope to persuade Brewster that he would be better served staying at Anfield to develop under Klopp, though there is an appreciation that the brilliance of the Reds’ front three – and Klopp’s desire to add at least one high-quality attacker this summer – limits opportunities for young players.
Ben Woodburn, for example, managed just seven minutes of Premier League football this season, while the likes of Harry Wilson, Sheyi Ojo and Ryan Kent have been sent out on loan in search of minutes, with mixed success.
In contrast, the Bundesliga is increasingly seen as a place where young English players can go to play high-level senior football. The success of Jadon Sancho, a team-mate of Brewster at U17 level, at Borussia Dortmund has been noted, while Ademola Lookman has enjoyed a positive spell on loan at Leipzig from Everton, scoring five times in 11 appearances.
Gladbach signed Reece Oxford on loan from West Ham last summer, and are keen to exploit Brewster’s situation at Liverpool this time around with a permanent deal for the striker.
However, Oxford – a talented centre-back or midfielder – managed just three starts in the first half of the campaign, returning to West Ham frustrated before joining on a second loan spell in January. The 19-year-old has made three more starts since, the last of which was on March 2.
Gladbach’s coach is Dieter Hecking, a manager with a reputation in Germany for preferring older, more experienced players. Hecking has used the likes of Lars Stindl (29), Raffael (33) and Raul Bobadilla (30) as his forwards this season, with few players under the age of 21 utilised.
Furthermore, their failure to qualify for the Europa League – they finished ninth in the Bundesliga – means that game-time will almost certainly be limited next season. Leipzig can offer European football, but Liverpool will continue to make the case that first-team opportunities will be available to Brewster, should he continue to perform and develop. Tottenham are understood to be monitoring the situation.
The Reds plan to offload at least two of Danny Ings, Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi this summer, and as it stands have no plans to sign a ‘traditional’ No.9 with Klopp set to target multi-functional attackers who can play both wide and centrally instead. Brewster, then, has the chance to make himself an option by performing in pre-season, when Liverpool will take on the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Dortmund and Napoli.
Born in the Chadwell Heath area of East London, Brewster joined Liverpool from Chelsea in 2015, convinced that there was a clearer pathway towards first-team football on Merseyside than at Stamford Bridge. He is represented by his uncle, whose guidance is about development, rather than financial gain. Brewster still lives in Academy accommodation on Merseyside, despite being top scorer at last year’s U17 World Cup in India.
For how much longer, though, remains to be seen. The feeling at present is that a departure is likely, but Liverpool hope to change Brewster’s mind. It promises to be an interesting few weeks on that front.